Muralist Chris Johnson

(Story and photo by Jackie Kennedy)

In less than two years, muralist Chris Johnson has transformed the monochrome pathway that leads to the heart of Shellman into a colorful and enticing entrance.

Six grain bins in this small Southwest Georgia town became the canvas for Johnson’s work, which was dedicated in a May 21 ceremony.

“This has been a wonderful project for our city that has brought visitors to Shellman,” Mayor Paul Langford said at the dedication. He announced that a glassblower plans to open a shop in town and a streetscaping project begins soon.

“You hear there’s not a lot going on in Southwest Georgia, but we’re here to tell you there is,” said Amanda Peacock, tourism manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD).

Casey Beane, regional representative for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), continues the accolades.

“We partner with a lot of communities, and you all have really taken the reins and done this your- self,” Beane said. “You are becoming a model for others. Thank you very much for doing this and for allowing DCA to be a part of it.”

The idea for incorporating murals into the local landscape was sparked in September 2016 when the GDEcD’s Tourism Product Development Team visited Randolph  County to develop a tourism plan. Johnson, director of the Visual Arts program at Andrew College in Cuthbert, was contracted as an artist to create the murals, and the first one was dedicated in April 2017 in Cuthbert.

The Randolph County Arts Council funded the Cuthbert mural through a Vibrant Communities Grant from the Georgia Art Council, while the murals in Shellman received funding through Tourism Product Development Grants from GDEcD. The murals have been a joint effort supported by the cities of Cuthbert and Shellman, Randolph County government, Andrew College and the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, Historical Society and Arts Council.

The Shellman murals depict the past, present and future of the community with an emphasis on agriculture. Johnson’s work has earned him a reputation, he said, noting that while he recently painted a mural in Albany, onlookers asked if he was the “Shellman guy.” He envisions Randolph County as a tourism destination for art and agriculture.

“I’m excited to see what all can happen here,” the muralist concluded.

 

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